A 24-year tradition will continue when a historic whistle and coin is used for the opening match of Rugby World Cup 2011 between New Zealand and Tonga at Eden Park on 9 September.
The whistle and coin have been used in every World Cup since the inaugural event in 1987, when Australia and New Zealand were joint hosts. The items are on display at Rugby Museum of New Zealand in Palmerston North and will be delivered to tournament officials this week.
“I think it is superb that the tradition continues,” museum director Stephen Berg said. “The referees will love it. For them, this is a special time.”
The whistle was originally used in games involving New Zealand (1905), South Africa (1906) and Australia (1908) when those teams made their first tours of Britain. The whistle was also used in the rugby final at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris.
“They are both in great shape,” said Berg. “We have a metal conservator who will brush them up. You just can’t give them to anyone to buff up.
“We took the whistle out of the display cabinet and blew it a couple of times to make sure it was working. The last thing you would want is it not to work in the opening game of the World Cup.
“There is a lot of interest in these items,” said Berg. “Rugby is steeped in tradition and this is a great tradition we are continuing.”
Rugby sevens will return for the 2016 Olympic Games, but Berg said it had not been decided whether the whistle would be offered to tournament officials in Rio de Janeiro.
“Do we or don’t we? It might be stretching things. This is a treasured item and we want to be careful.”
But Berg said a commitment had been made for the whistle and coin to be used in the opening match of Rugby World Cup 2015. “It’s tradition,” he said.